No matter how much James does — his list of accomplishments is long for someone who’s only 28 — many hoops fans and media members view him as an all-time underachiever. All he did Tuesday was lead a furious fourth-quarter rally and finished with his second triple-double of the Finals. The box score told part of the story: James had 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
“It was by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” James said. “The ups and downs, the roller coaster, the emotion, good and bad, throughout the whole game. To be part of something like this, it’s something you’ll never be able to recreate once you’re done playing the game. I’m blessed to be a part of something like this.”
What James did best, however, was overcome his own failings — late turnovers in regulation. His three-pointer with 20 seconds to play pulled the Heat within two. Then the ageless Ray Allen made a three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left, setting the stage for overtime and Miami, somehow, wasn’t finished. James helped make sure of it.
“We needed everything that we had and more,” James said. “To come out with a win like that, it makes it even greater when you’re able to will everything you have as individuals.”
Most superstar athletes are graded on their overall body of work. James is judged minute by minute. And nothing he did yesterday matters — unless yesterday was bad for James. These Finals are a great example of the wrongheaded James-has-failed-again thinking.
Following Miami’s Game 1 loss, James was singled out for doing too little. James had a triple-double. Granted, James has struggled to score during the series. In three games, he produced fewer than 19 points. He’s shooting under 45 percent from the field. Give San Antonio credit for playing great team defense against James. San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich knows a little something about the game.
Still, James’s Finals stats illustrate his incredible all-around ability: He’s averaging 23.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.5 assists. He was on the floor for 50 minutes Tuesday night. The humility James has shown during Miami’s toughest moments against San Antonio is no less impressive.
After Miami’s embarrassing blowout loss in Game 3, James shouldered responsibility for the abysmal performance. As the Heat’s leader, James should have, especially after he scored only 15 points on 7-for-21 shooting.
Few superstars, however, would have been as candid as James was in blaming himself for the loss. A few years ago, James probably wouldn’t have gone there. He showed growth and also walked the walk: James had 33 points and 11 rebounds in Miami’s Game 4 win. On Tuesday, James delivered his second bounce-back performance in four games. He’s the biggest reason Miami and San Antonio will play a winner-take-the-golden-trophy showdown here Thursday.